Star Death: Crab NebulaMany of the atoms in your body formed billions of years ago, inside an aging star.
Some stars die slowly, giving off puffs of gas and dust before collapsing to form small white dwarf stars. Much larger stars die suddenly in powerful explosions known as supernovae, blasting gas, dust, and energy out in all directions as they collapse to form tiny neutron stars or black holes. The gas and dust expelled by dying stars eventually combines with the remains of others to form new stars, planets, and moons.
The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant: the remains of star whose life ended in a supernova explosion. Observing the different types of light given off by the supernova remnants like the Crab Nebula allows us to better understand what happens to massive stars at the end of their lives; to understand what has happened to the matter and energy that made up the star; and better understand where the planets, moons, rock, water, soil—and living things—originally come from.
Quick Facts: Crab NebulaAlso known as: Messier 1 (M1)
Type of Object: Supernova Remnant
Distance from Earth: 6,500 light-years
Size: Approximately 10 light-years across
Location in the Sky: Taurus Constellation
Location in the Universe: Milky Way Galaxy, outside the Solar System
Fun Fact: The bright light from the supernova explosion that formed the Crab Nebula was observed by Chinese, Japanese, and Arab astronomers in 1054 A.D. The light has since faded and the Crab Nebula is no longer visible without a telescope.
Explore More About Star Death
Find out more about the Death of Stars with these additional resources from NASA’s Universe of Learning
Credits: Star Death
Radio image of the Crab Nebula from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF
Infrared image of the Crab Nebula from the Spitzer Space Telescope courtesy of JPL/Caltech
Visible light image of the Crab Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope courtesy of NASA, ESA/Hubble
Ultraviolet light image of the Crab Nebula from the XMM-Newton space telescope courtesy of ESA
X-ray light image of the Crab Nebula from the Chandra X-ray Observatory courtesy of CXC
Multi-wavelength image of the Crab Nebula (radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-ray) courtesy of NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI
Content development by Margaret W. Carruthers, Timothy Rhue II, Dr. Brandon Lawton (STScI)
Design by Elizabeth Wheatley, John Godfrey (STScI)
Web Development by Philippe Batigne (STScI)
Subject-matter expertise provided by Dr. Tea Temim (STScI), Dr. Bill Blair (STScI/JHU), Dr. Brandon Lawton (STScI)